Winners announced in writers’ contest

Twenty-fourth annual Kenai Peninsula Writers’ Contest features literary artists from around peninsula.

The Homer Council on the Arts announces the winners in its all-age 24th Annual Kenai Peninsula Writers’ Contest. Revived last year by the arts council, poets and writers from grades K-12 and adults were invited to submit their best work in poetry, nonfiction and fiction.

“We are once again so happy to encourage and celebrate writers across the Kenai Peninsula with this contest!” said HCOA Executive Director Scott Bartlett. “The mission of Homer Council on the Arts is to provide artistic opportunities, so it’s wonderful to see how many more writers participated in the contest compared to last year. Taking the leap to participate and explore your artistic expression is an end in itself, and truly shows the artistic diversity and creativity of our region. We congratulate all of the writers who submitted work this year!”

Judging was done blindly, with author’s names removed from entries. The judges were Debi Poore, Lyn Maslow, Melissa Cloud, Shelley Worsfold, Ann Dixon, Vivian Finlay, Billeen Carlson, Carol Ford, Linda Martin, Mercedes Harness, Nancy Lord, Matt Iverson, Kathryn Carssow, Jay Bechtol and Justin Herrmann.

“We are profoundly fortunate and grateful to all our judges,” said contest coordinator Kiki Abrahamson. “It is not an easy task, and without them we would be hard pressed to present this opportunity to promote the literary arts.”

Winners received prizes by sponsors Bodett & Co., the Homer Bookstore, River City Books and the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center.

First-place winners are published in this edition of the Homer News, and all the winning stories, including second- and third-place entries, are online at the Homer Council on the Arts website at

And the winners are …


Grades K-3

1st: “Dark and Deadly,” by Keva Campbell of Homer

2nd: “The Fall Poem,” by Scarlett Bernard of Kenai

3rd: “Grizzly,” by Keva Campbell of Homer

Grades 4-6

1st: “Stuck in the Middle,” by Maci Miller of Kenai

2nd: “A Pencil Yellow Birch Leaf,” by Sawyer Johnson of Homer

3rd: “The Mysteries of Night,” by Elliott Hatten of Soldotna

Grades 7-9

1st: “Outshine the Sun,” by Ainsley Boss-Harmon of Homer

2nd: “The Sea and the Stone,” by Ainsley Boss-Harmon of Homer

3rd: “The Ocean,” by Britta Velsko of Homer

Grades 10-12

1st: “Detached,” by Serena Fankhauser of Homer

2nd: My Enemy,” by Thea Person of Homer

3rd: “Change,” by Eryn Field of Homer


1st: “In Gratitude to John Prine,” by M.T. Samuel of Homer

2nd: “skinny raven girl,” by M.T. Samuel of Homer

3rd: “Good to Know,” by Emily O’Connor of Homer


Grades K-3

1st: “Judy the Sled Dog,” by Harper Bross of Soldotna

2nd: “The Dragon,” by Nate Keam of Homer

3rd: “The Found Bunny,” by Mallory Primm’s K-1 Class at Tiny Trees of Homer

Grades 4-6

1st: “Dog-on Hike,” by Nevaeh Gregoire of Homer

2nd: “Snow in Googerville,” by Isolde Panarelli of Homer

3rd: “November Sky,” by Ani Cook of Homer

Grades 7-9

1st: “Punks,” by Breyan Cathey of Homer

2nd: “One Mysterious Night in Alcwood,” by Amy Sevast of Kenai

3rd: “Anotherworld,” by Micah Sevast of Kenai

Grades 10-12

1st: “The Janitor,” by Theo McDonough of Homer

2nd: “The Wilted Lily,” by Hannah Stonorov of Homer

3rd: “Fallen Hero,” by Zach Marley of Homer


1st: “Signe and the Snow,” by Elizabeth Chilson of Soldotna

2nd: “Everything He Touched,” by Franco Venuti of Homer

3rd: “Kodiak,” by Jason Steadman of Soldotna


Grades K-3

1st: “The Crazy Water Bottle,” by Maggie Lints of Homer

2nd: “Puppy Piercing,” by Haddie Kincaid of Homer

3rd: “My Brother’s Hawaiian Birthday,” by Layla O’Neal of Homer

Grades 4-6

1st: “That’s Baseball,” by Elias Kratsas of Kasilof

2nd: “Sailing with Dolphins,” by Ilsa Gutschow of Homer

3rd: “Ready for Anything,” by Ames Kincaid of Homer

Grades 7-9

1st: “Laced with Pretty Blue Flowers,” by Rebecca Trowbridge of Homer

2nd: N/A (insufficient entries)

3rd: N/A (insufficient entries)

Grades 10-12

1st: “Where Art Thou, Romeo?” by Ivy Daly of Kasilof

2nd: “By Twos and Sevens,” by Olivia Glasman of Homer

3rd: “The Creature,” by Simon Gucer of Homer


1st: “Other Bloods,” by John Messick of Soldotna

2nd: “Home,” by Michael B. Rearden of Homer

3rd: “Nicky and Elizabeth,” by Catherine Mendenhall of Kenai

Judges Comments

Adult Poetry

1. “In Gratitude to John Prine”

There is so much to love in this poem. The form is working to accentuate meaning, and I especially like the white space in the line that begins “Everything is.” Though the poem is about loss, the speaker/structure stays grounded in the present until “And then eventually.” Love the description of the 1990s kitchen. The language throughout is precise and evocative, and using images as to show time passing is effective. The speaker’s dad is revealed through the material world and through a shared love of music.

Lots of camera work in this poem, moving from close-up to distant and back again. The movement also occurs in time—between past and present. There are many lovely metaphors and images. “My mom and dad keep peeling off the wall,” and “He is the cotton T-shirt with holes at the seams.”

2. “skinny raven girl”

I like the speaker’s joyful reverence for mari. The poem is about celebrating the feminine wild. The speaker documents the ways skinny raven girl reveals herself, at times contradictory, but always resilient. I like the way the white space creates tension and surprise.

This is a careful portrait of a complicated woman who is capable of “fixing her own damn wing.” Good use of revelatory detail.

3. “Good to Know”

The repetition in this poem is lovely, both playful and contemplative. Each stanza holds strong, each elaborating a bit more about the things that are secure and known, until the marvelous turn at the end, when the poem turns and becomes about being open to mystery.

The repetition in this poem makes it swing, the sensory details make it sing.

Adult Fiction

1. Signe and the Snow: Fresh lyrical descriptions and vivid sensory details make Alaska’s long, harsh winter come alive in this captivating story about a mysterious child.

2. “Everything He Touched”- Perfectly captures the joys, expectations, and subsequent disillusionment of childhood.

3. “Kodiak” – An engaging story told in a traditional style. Full of Alaska details and imagery.

Adult Nonfiction

1. “Other Bloods”

This was a well-crafted, interesting and informative piece. I appreciated the author sharing his evolving internal reflections on his experience in the context of cross-cultural and historical perspectives.

This is a wonderfully reflective examination of hunting, which also has a strong sense of place and well-developed characters (including the narrator.) It does a great job of extending beyond personal experience to investigate “hunting as poetry and myth” by bringing in other voices, traditions, and elements of natural history.


The author takes the reader on a harrowing ride through a blizzard on a snowmobile using penetrating sensory descriptions. This reader appreciated the ultimate shelter as the miracle of a nature that it was. A short, satisfying adventure story.

This is a very well-constructed, clear story with a strong sense of place and terrific use of the senses. It carries readers right onto the landscape and into the storm. The experiences of both human fragility and safety are well explored and presented.

3. “Nicky and Elizabeth”

The author’s telling of her coming to terms with bearing the unbearable as a young child without sufficient support and understanding makes for a compelling story. It illustrates well how trauma experienced in childhood is not always what directly happens to the child but is often what happens to others whom she loves. It takes courage to write such a story.

HM “Fixing Fences”

I enjoyed this story of a young person coming into their own and realizing an appreciation for a parent while simultaneously identifying and valuing their own quite different perspective and values.

HM “He Doesn’t Need to Kill Me”: A good story written clearly.

10-12 fiction

1. “The Janitor”: Concise but effective storytelling with strong descriptive details, good tension building, and an understated ending that leaves room for the imagination. Withholds information skillfully.

2. “The Wilted Lily”: A creative exploration of grief. Good description, dialogue, use of symbolism.

3. “Fallen Hero”: Engaging description and action with a strong moral dilemma that leaves the reader wanting to know more of the story.

10-12 nonfiction

1.. “Romeo” – Fantastic example of journalistic, creative nonfiction.

2. “Twos and Sevens” – A lovely story, vividly done.

3. “The Creature” – Interesting images and descriptions. I liked the use of scientific terminology to build up suspense. Reminded me of Ray Bradbury.

10-12 Poetry

1. “Detached”: Uses extended and concrete images to describe a difficult relationship. Conveys emotional tone with details and strong description.

powerful imagery and tone, evocative, immediate

2. “My Enemy”: Four-line stanzas and rhyme show good awareness of poetic devices. Good mechanics and presentation. Conveys emotions effectively. Good images and moving sense of sorrow and pain throughout

3. “Change”: Makes use of alliteration, form and repetition. Conveys emotional tone. Great job of taking on the most urgent issue of our time. Direct, clear, powerful

HM: “Clay Beads”: Lots of interesting imagery, some alliteration and rhyme, and a subtle storytelling arc convey emotion and change. I really like all the ways you shed light on your specific moment in time.

7-9 Nonfiction:

1. “Laced with Pretty Blue Flowers”: The author’s descriptive details bring the characters to life and share the author’s clear and compassionate voice.

7-9 Fiction:

1. “Punks” – We liked the dialogue between two characters and the interesting story line.

2. “Anotherworld” – Interesting dream, with detailed descriptions.

7-9 Poetry:

1. “Outshine the Sun” – The imagery is lovely and the use of a variety of poetic devices is engaging.

2. “Sea and Stone” – The beginning is very good. Creative use of form and metaphor.

3. “The Ocean” – Detailed, often poetic, descriptions of the ocean create rich images for the reader.

4-6 Fiction

It was so nice to read a group of papers that were clever and nicely constructed.

1. “Dog-on Hike”: Great vocabulary, good grasp of dialog and conventions. The author did a nice job of using words to paint a picture in the reader’s mind.

2. “Snow in Googerville”: Creative ideas, great sequence of events. Conventions weren’t consistent. Lots of possibilities with this piece!

3. “November Sky”: Wonderful vocabulary and great descriptions! Excellent job. Topic jumps around a bit from one idea to another. Keep writing!

We have a runner up: “My Favorite Time of Summer” was a strong contender. It read like a memoir piece — great vocabulary and knowledge of the horse world. Good descriptions!

4-6 Nonfiction

1. “That’s Baseball”: Structuring your story by time blocks helped with the flow and ease of reading. Using sound effects and dialogue are difficult, but you used them effectively and they helped keep me engaged. Your voice, sentence fluency and word choice are all good. I wish you could have included a few more details about the actual championship game. I am glad you are ready to play baseball again next year!

2. “Sailing with Dolphins”: Your opening includes lovely descriptors of Akaroa and helped me form images of the place. You included many details of the dolphins surrounding the oat and kept me engaged to the end. Well done.

3. “Ready for Anything”: I love the countdown organization, creating an exciting crescendo. This reader does question the lead of Sixteen Hours… and then Two Hours… and then Two Days (I think this may have been an editing error?) Great use of dialogue. Strong voice throughout.

4-6 Poetry

1. “Stuck in the Middle”: This is a strong, solid poem where the repeating line, “stuck in the middle” is integral to setting the tone of this piece. You have an engaging theme that I readily relate to. Your organizational structure is effective. I like the ending when you flip the tone and end, “with love.” Great job!

2. “A Pencil Yellow Birch Leaf”: I really enjoyed the shape the poem takes; representative of a falling leaf’s journey. This reader questions the first line, however; it seems unrelated to the theme. Strong use of verbs. Your word choice creates lovely images of the birch leaf spinning, dancing to the forest floor. I like the metaphor of a birch leaf as a quilt patch covering the forest floor. The poetic rhythm and flow add to the imagery. Nice work!

3. “The Mysteries of Night”: Your opening line is strong and creates a wonderful visual (Nice job!), but you may wish to increase your SHOWing in the latter part of your poem. You might try something like adding verbs: Happy hoots from an owl. Purrs from a cat. Maybe a scurrying rat. Those strong verbs help paint a picture in the reader’s mind. I like how the voice does not seem scared by the mysteries of the night, but sweetly inquisitive. Good work!

Judges sent a letter to all K-3 entries, which included this line: Here is a comment we wanted to share with you as well as a “golden line” or gem from your piece.

K-3 Fiction

1. “Judy the Sled Dog”: Taking the point of view of the dog added interest to the story. Your love of dogs comes through in your writing. “I ran fast, my heart pounding faster than my feet were running.” “I slept quietly to the sounds of the wind.” Very peaceful image.

2. “The Dragon”: In this action filled story the main character comes up with solutions to escalating problems. I would like to know more about the narrator. And what happens next! “The forest was burning and it fell into ashes”

3. “The Found Bunny” You created an interesting twist of cat and dog having a pet! Your story had a good use of pattern and a surprise ending…finding bunny in a nest! “They hear a bird tweet “Up Here! Up Here!’”

K-3 Nonfiction

1. “The Crazy Water Bottle”:We enjoyed the detail of your camping adventure. The addition of the water bottle gave the story a fun twist. Phrases like these made the reader feel like they were along on the hike:“a gorgeous river ran alongside of the trail,” “the falling water was very loud,” “It was incredibly chilly but also a little bit fun.”

2. “Puppy Piercing” You described your experience in detail. You built some suspense around your injury as well as your puppy’s fate.

“She pierced through my ear with her sharp long fangs.”

“He had a deep booming voice like thunder.” A great simile.

3. “My Brother’s Hawaiian Birthday”: Your description of the day made the reader feel your joy and your affection for your brother.

“My brother couldn’t have asked for a better birthday than one in a warm place.”

“Two angel fish swimming very gracefully…” Nice imagery.

K-3 Poetry

1.” Dark and Deadly” As a poet, you have created great tension in just a few lines. “No one knows /No one sees “

2. “The Fall Poem”: Such a great word painting of a fall day…great imagery!

“Brown beautiful owls hanging from trees…”

3. “Grizzly”: You have captured the essence of a grizzly in a few choice words.

“Free Runner / Fantastic Fisher”

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